KPBS AIRDATE: July 26, 1995
Like the weather and the ocean, the theater season is heating up — but there’s some very cool stuff around. It’s an ideal time to catch up and look ahead.
First, I want to thank you. Last December, I put out a plea to local musical theater fans to pray that the cancelled San Diego stop of the national touring production of “Jelly’s Last Jam” would be rescheduled. Well, our collective, karmic, theatrical energy prevailed, and the sexy, exuberant, bluesy, jazzy story of Jelly Roll Morton pulls into town for 8 performances only, August 1 through the 6th, at the Civic Theatre downtown. Maurice Hines may not be as charismatic as his brother Gregory was, but the dancing is still fabulous, as is the entire, glitzy show. Don’t miss it.
One other production worth seeing that you already, sadly missed — maybe twice — was Samuel Valdez L.’s powerful mounting of “Roosters” by Milcha Sanchez Scott. This encore presentation was brought to Sledgehammer Theatre from Centro Cultural de la Raza. Wise move. Bigger theater. Potent story. The cock-fight is used as a metaphor for a father-son relationship in a Mexican-American field-working family. It boasts an excellent cast, one of whom didn’t even get to stick around for the curtain calls. That’s because K.B. Merrill, who played a spectacularly sinewy rooster, had to rush over to the Fritz Theatre, to appear in its late-night production, “US.”
For the last two weekends, “US” followed close on the heels of “Confessions of an Irish Rebel,” a one-man comedy-drama enacting the words of Brendan Behan, the Guinness-swigging, provocative Irish playwright, storyteller and IRA activist who died of cirrhosis in 1964 at the ripe old age of 41.
Dublin-born Shay Duffin, who’s spent the last 13 years working on this piece, absolutely inhabits Behan’s character, and post-show, he’s almost as literate and funny himself. Though you missed a super show, watch for it coming to a theater near you. Duffin’s screenplay has been optioned for a film starring Robin Williams, with Duffin playing the father. Next up at the Fritz is the second annual Fritz Blitz of New Plays, six weekends of hot stuff, starting August 3.
And, if you can take it, stick around for “US,” Karen Malpede’s brutal play about love and violence and childhood abuse. K.B. Merrill and Duane Daniels are superbly directed by Karin Williams. The language and situations are incredibly rough, but the performances are finely tuned and amazingly physical.
Another one that got away may be “Guys and Dolls,” one of the world’s funniest musicals, which, directed by Don and Bonnie Ward, got an exceptional outdoor airing at Moonlight Amphitheatre. Tonight, the Vista venue opens “Big River,” the musical tale of Huckleberry Finn. Grab the kids and the picnic and go!
Now you’ve still got one last weekend to catch “Lost in Yonkers” at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. It isn’t Neil Simon’s best, though it got him a Pulitzer. His characters were more believable when they came directly from his own family. But Katherine Faulconer is perfectly icy and brittle as the Germanic matriarch, the kids are cute, and Casey Hogrefe is a hoot as Uncle Louie.
It’s theater season in San Diego. Support your city, support the arts, and write your congressmen to support the NEA.
I’m Pat Launer, KPBS radio.
©1995 Patté Productions Inc.